As if Donald Trumps worst week of his 2016 presidential campaign hadn’t been enough, his prospects darkened further Monday afternoon with the release of four battleground polls, three of which show Hillary Clinton clearly ahead, most significantly in Florida. That’s the first time since June that Clinton has led Trump by as large a lead in the same Quinnipiac University poll–five points. In June, she briefly enjoyed an eight point lead.
The Quinnipiac poll is largely considered the most reputable of the polls covering Florida. It shows Clinton with a 46-41 advantage in Florida, with Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson fading, at 5 percent, and the Green Party’s Jill Stein at 2 percent. Clinton has a 46-43 advantage in North Carolina, a 45-41 advantage in Pennsylvania, and she still trails Trump in Ohio, where she’s trailed him throughout most of the spring and summer, 47-42. Clinton’s margin is identical whether Johnson and Stein are on the ballot or not.
In both August and September Quinnipiac polls, Trump and Clinton were tied at 43, with Johnson and Stein garnering 10 points between them. The trend indicates that as Johnson’s and Stein’s support erodes, Clinton gains. At election time alternate-party candidates generally lose votes as voters finally migrate to a candidate they believe has a stronger chance of winning. That, too, bodes ill for the Trump campaign, if current trends hold.
The polls were taken after the first debate between Clinton and Trump last week, a debate Clinton decisively won on substance and demeanor, while Trump further fell behind in the days after the debate as he remained off-message, bizarrely focusing attention on a Miss Universe’s weight, blaming a microphone malfunction at the debate and veering, late in the week, toward attacks on Bill Clinton’s infidelities. The polls do not reflect the consequences (if there will be any) to the New York Times revelations Sunday that Trump declared a nearly $1 billion loss in 1995 from mismanagement of three casinos, the Plaza Hotel in New York and of an airline he’d bought, and that the loss may have enabled him to avoid paying income taxes for 18 years.
The timing of the poll’s release is also an indication of trouble for the Trump campaign in Florida, a state it cannot afford to lose if it is to have any hope of winning the presidency: Voting has already began in Flagler and many counties across Florida, and on Friday, the Flagler supervisor of elections will mail some 13,000 ballots to voters who have requested to vote by mail. Early voting will begin in 21 days, on Oct. 24. That leaves little time for Trump to improve his fortunes in the state.
The deadline to register to vote in Florida is Tuesday, Oct. 11.
Looking at the poll’s results more closely, respondents said Clinton won the first debate by a 56-21 margin, including 27 percent of Republicans saying she won, 84 percent of Democrats, and 54 percent of independents. The battle in Florida is almost entirely over independent voters, who typically swing elections.
Trump leads 49-38 percent among men, but Clinton leads 53-33 percent among women, a margin that comfortably makes up her deficit among men. (That’s where Clinton is failing in Ohio: Trump’s margin among men is much more crushing, 58-31, than Clinton’s among women, 51-39.) Trump leads 84-5 percent among Republicans, but Clinton’s support among Democrats is much stronger at 92 percent, an indication with the discomfort some Republicans feel over a Trump presidency. Independent voters go 42 percent for Trump, 39 percent for Clinton and 7 percent for Johnson, an improvement for Clinton who had previously lost the independent vote by near double digits. (In Ohio, Trump holds a commanding 52-33 lead among independents.)
The Florida poll was conducted between Sept. 27 and Oct. 2 with 545 Florida likely voters, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percent, through live interviews by landlines and cell phones.